The Lady in the Van

Date 9th February 2022
Society Cromer & Sheringham Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Little Theatre, Sheringham
Type of Production Play
Director Martin Rodwell and Bernice Escott

Report

Author: Susan DuPont

Postponed from the October slot at the theatre, this truly excellent production was worth the wait of every second, a great evening.

On this small stage, it was a miracle to fit on the van! The set cleverly designed and placed, great attention to detail in all aspects, the office area well furnished and the outside garden into van worked and was perfect for the play and company.

What can one say about the two Alan Bennetts, knowing them they are not really alike, but one could indeed see the resemblance with spectacles, haircuts and costumes, and the Yorkshire accents so well maintained. So many words and the take-up of dialogue  between these two just flowed so freely, Robin Taylor and Paul James were brilliant in their telling of this story and the interaction with the other participating characters.

A dominating performance when on stage and all the foibles of this part in the characterisation (and we could almost ‘smell’ in the audience), Sarah Westlake was the Lady in the Van with those clothes and that attitude towards the Alans, loved the ‘driving the ambulance’ repeats. She took over their lives. One felt the sympathy and yet the frustration by the Alans, the bonds over the fifteen years develop into the final moments. The relationships of these three main characters really held so strongly throughout the performance.

But enhanced by the more minor characters, this play offered great opportunities for the company. Peter Howell as Rufus and Kat Tindall as Pauline (very glam), living opposite, living a different and more upper-class life struggled to accept what was happening in their road, disapproval written in every word, lovely parts to play. And Mam on her visits (and theirs to her), Thelma Torr was perfect casting in this role, definitely a reminder of Thora Hird character, we felt so sympathetic to her. And one could feel the friction of personalities between social worker Amanda Howell in her dealings with Alan and with Miss Shepherd, good vibrations here and frustration too. The five minor characters all added their personalities to this story.

This is such an excellent play and what a delight to have a company so worthy and talented to bring to the stage, a really good experience.